Josh Matlow City Hall Diary
Only five months after Toronto’s municipal election, many city councillors are back knocking at voters’ doors. But this time, they’re helping their friends running in the federal election.
For full disclosure, I’ll be supporting the Liberal MP in my riding, Dr. Carolyn Bennett.
Of all of Toronto’s councillors, one may be the most related, I mean really related, to federal politics — Mike Layton. His dad, Jack, is the federal NDP leader and step-mom Olivia Chow serves as MP for the same downtown Toronto riding Mike represents in Ward 19.
Having grown up in politics, Layton has canvassed in elections since he was 8 years old.
Layton’s convinced the election won’t affect his relationship with other councillors who hold party membership cards different than his own. He told me, “We’re playing in a different field.”
However, he does suggest federal politics did find its way into city hall recently.
He cited a council meeting this year when Councillor Janet Davis requested Mayor Ford write to the Harper government about restoring funding to agencies providing services for newcomers to Canada that had just seen cuts. Layton wonders if Ford voted against Davis’ motion because of his close relationship with the federal Tories.
He also points out that federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty attended a Ford mayoral campaign event and the mayor himself has made no secret of where his partisan loyalties lie.
While Layton’s work as a councillor takes up almost every waking hour of his life, he intends to spend his “spare time” helping NDP candidates such as his dad, Chow and Andrew Cash. Interestingly, Cash is taking on Davenport’s Liberal MP Mario Silva — Councillor Ana Bailao’s former boss.
However, Layton adamantly exclaimed he’s more ideologically progressive than partisan, while humbly acknowledging, “but nobody believes me.”
I also spoke with Councillor John Parker, who, like the mayor’s dad, was once an MPP in Mike Harris’ Conservative government.
Parker tells me he wants to have a positive relationship with the provincial and federal representatives in his riding of Don Valley West — both of whom are Liberals.
Although he won’t actively campaign against his home riding’s incumbents, Parker does plan to spend time on the campaign trail with friends from his Queen’s Park days now running for the Conservative Party of Canada in other ridings, including Jim Flaherty and Terence Young.
Like Layton, Parker hopes the federal election won’t affect city hall much. “We work around partisan issues every day,” he said.
City hall does seem more divided along ideological rather than partisan lines. But elections can become heated and I hope Layton and Parker are correct that council can work together (perhaps like a coalition) despite the backdrop of a federal campaign.
No matter who ends up in charge in Ottawa, each of Toronto’s councillors work on everyday issues such as cleaning up parks and fixing sewer pipes while helping people through challenges affecting their homes and communities.
As Councillor Parker astutely puts it, “Whether we’re NDP, Liberal or Conservative, it’s still a sewer pipe.”
Josh Matlow is the councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul’s.
To read this column at thestar.com, please click here.